Keeping Pace in a Revved-up Kitchen
Most Americans would love a Porsche or a Ferrari in the driveway. Now German and Italian designers aim to put these prestigious brands in our kitchens.
Courtesy of Acropolis kitchen by Snaidero
Designers of these renowned sports cars have partnered with two respected European manufacturers of modern kitchens: Porsche with 100-year-old Poggenpohl in Germany and Ferrari with 60-year-old Snaidero in Italy.
Competing alongside several dozen other importers and a handful of American firms, modern design is gaining ground in the U.S. kitchen market.
In our label conscious culture, will new “fast lane” kitchens created by Europe’s fine designers get Americans to give up the traditional kitchen look?
Rating the Ride
Chances are if you love luxury sports cars, then a high performance kitchen won’t be out of place in your home. “It’s design you enjoy looking at, clean, neat and refreshing, with no distractions,” notes Richard Kregloski, who has carried Poggenpohl in his Paramus showroom for 10 years.
Lovers of modern design criticize traditional kitchen style for “gingerbread sameness” – lots of wood with add-ons to save it from becoming bland.
Modern kitchens capitalize on geometric lines, form and light to set the look apart. Some experts call it “modern with emotion.” The basic construction features “frameless” cabinetry in either wall-mounted fabrications or pieces that look like stylized furniture. Wood is available but so are high-pressure laminates, exotic veneers, aluminum, stainless and even colored glass.
The overall look is evolved classic modernist design from the mid-20th century: angular geometry; uniform color in bold, neutral or tone-on-tone interpretations; highly polished surfaces; ambient lighting for accent, and striking accessories, used sparingly.
Ted Chappell, president of Poggenpohl’s U.S. division in Fairfield, says modern design offers clear advantages: “Technology provides a way to make the most of every square inch.” His company will attempt to dazzle the market in 2008 with its Porsche-designed “Kitchen for Men,” with a machismo edge it hopes will engage more male consumers. Porsche combines metals with black-lacquered, satinized and high gloss surfaces, open texture woods and glass to capture the exclusive Porsche look.
A high-tech, multimedia LCD audio/video module encased in glass adds to the room’s stunning good looks and keeps sensitive electronics safe from grease or moisture. Also on tap: specialized appliances with sleek sensor keys instead of buttons, which measure up in both function and style to preserve Porsche’s reputation for design purity, harmony and wholeness.
Meanwhile, Snaidero continues its relationship with Ferrari stylist Paolo Pininfarina, who feature Acropolis, Ola and Venus models in their portfolio. Earlier this year, Acropolis was selected for HGTV’s “Ten Most Amazing Kitchens.” Kitchen designer Lorena Polon, who manages Snaidero’s Morristown location, sees Acropolis as “the quintessential expression of ultra-contemporary design.” In its unique concentric layout, the cook can interact with others at all times, while optimizing cooking efficiency – every task within arm’s reach. The engineering is equally enlightened: the “sandwiched” aluminum frame is fully recyclable.
Sports car kitchens take modernism to the limit, but what can a middle-of-the-road modern kitchen do for the American home today? All of the importers offer more moderately priced and modestly styled alternatives. Here are several ways European design can enhance kitchens.
Getting a Handle on High Style
Traditional kitchens rely on handle and hinge hardware to make a design statement – and because they are typically necessary to open the doors and drawers. The hardware is available in thousands of styles, sizes, finishes and materials to fit in with every conceivable decor.
The defining feature in the best Euro-kitchens is the absence of hardware – precision-engineered doors and drawers that don’t need handles to operate. Just a light tap activates a mechanism and the drawers open and withdraw on their own power.
This feature produces great design impact – and great gee-whiz factor – with expanses of uninterrupted planes that emphasize line and form, rather than pausing on details.
More Discreet Room for Cargo
We expect a lot of today’s kitchen. We want it to multitask like our cell phones, TVs and cars. We need it super organized and may even want it to accommodate two of everything – sinks, ovens, dishwashers and refrigerators – but still appear uncluttered.
Arguably, traditional kitchens can do a good job of this but often at the cost of visual bulk. Modern kitchens seem to have the edge, with a basic design profile that seamlessly incorporates lots of capacity for storage and appliances while concealing them discreetly behind continuous linear and curvilinear surfaces.
The Speed of Change
How motivated are Americans to invest in modern kitchens that mirror our fast-paced lives? Sales in that category represent about 30 percent of the total market, by some estimates, and seem to be increasing. Since Poggenpohl arrived in the U.S. in the 1970s, demand for its modern kitchens has nearly tripled, claims Chappell.
Amir Ilin, owner of Kuche+Cucina in Paramus and Madison, attributes the growth to the Internet, which increased exposure to European design previously limited to urban showrooms. “It can be 4 a.m. in Des Moines, Iowa, and you’re shopping in Milan seconds later,” he says.
Ilin is also affiliated with Pedini-USA, an Italian kitchen importer which has built a network of 35 dealers in just three years.
Modern kitchen sales are booming, claims Ilin, who said Pedini’s U.S. sales for January of this year exceeded total sales for all of 2007, an earnings feat repeated in February. Ilin believes a permanent shift in American kitchen design has already occurred.
“Three years ago, our business was split 50/50 between modern and traditional,” states Derek Zylewicz, president of Urban Homes New York, a Manhattan kitchen and bath firm that imports from Italy’s Aster Cucine. According to Zylewicz, a full 90 percent of his sales are in modern design.
Whether you race toward the new ideal or pace yourself with what Snaidero calls a “revised traditional” design, just be sure your kitchen can keep up.
Amir Ilin, Kuche+Cucina – Paramus and
201) 261-5221 or (973) 937-6060
Janine Flamer, Poggenpohl U.S., Inc. –
(973) 812-8900 x38 – www.poggenpohlusa.com
Lorena Polon, Snaidero USA – Morristown, N.J.
Derek Zylewicz, Urban Homes New York – New York, N.Y. 212-246-7700 – www.uhny.com